An elementary school in Achille, Okla., shut down for two days after violent threats were posted on Facebook explicitly targeting a 12-year-old transgender student.
The private “Achille ISD Parents Group” Facebook page was apparently created by and for parents of the school children. But a wildfire was ignited when one parent found out the trans student used the girl’s bathroom at Achille Elementary, which serves pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.
Jamie Crenshaw began colluding the hate crime by posting a warning in the Achille ISD Parent Group on Facebook. She dehumanized the child by saying, ‘Heads up parents of 5th thru 7th grade girls. The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY….looks like it’s gonna be a long year. We have made school board meetings over this situation last year but nothing seems to be changing. This is the same kid that got an trouble as soon as he transferred two years ago for looking over the stalls in the girls bathroom. Enough is enough,” tagging Burney Crenshaw, the online activist group Hatewatch reported, noting that all spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors were made by Crenshaw.
Another commentator, David Williams, chimed in: “Ty Hays you know we have open hunting seasons on them kind. Aint no bag limit in them either.”
Eddie Belcher, 79, of Broken Arrow in suburban Tulsa, wrote: “If he wants to be a female make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.”
The parents of Maddison Kayleen Kleeman filed an emergency protective order on Friday, Aug. 10 against Burney Crenshaw in Bryan County Court. Mother Brandy Rose told CBS affiliate KXII that her daughter had only used the girl’s room once. Additionally, she noted, her daughter did not “peer” over or under bathroom stalls, as Crenshaw claimed.
The Blade called the Crenshaws, who own Crenshaw Chemical & Fertilizer, located in the neighboring town of Colbert. The person who answered told the Blade there would be no comment and hung up.
The Blade also got a “no comment” from Frontier Airlines, the corporate bosses of Kevin Lee Bickerstaff, 58, who told the Facebook group: “Just tell the kids to kick ass in the bathroom and it won’t want to come back!” Bickerstaff is involved in the Mid-South Youth Rodeo Cowboys Association of Oklahoma. He is also a member of the Texoma Junior Rodeo Association—whose former president is Burney Crenshaw.
Oklahoma does not have a law guarding transgender people against discrimination and last February, the U.S. Department of Education withdrew guidance protecting trans students under federal law. A spokesperson for Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss told the Blade that it has sent memos clearly stating that the USDOE will not process any complaints from transgender students experiencing discrimination in schools.
“LGBTQ is not a category in hate crime legislation and state statues. Worse, trans persons are invisible in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma City-based trans activist Paula Sophia Schonauer, a social worker, told the Blade. “I’m a retired police officer. When I’d take reports similar to this, this type of threat is what crossed the legal line, as long as those threats were specific.”
Schonauer added: “These kinds of comments are common for trolls. I have experienced many of the same kind, in different roles as a trans advocate, when I’ve encountered this hate before. But this time it is different. It’s a kid.”
Bryan County Sheriff Johnny Christian says deputies are currently investigating the Facebook posts and could file charges. He says most of the responses were from parents outside the Achille area—some even from out of state. Christian confirms that Maddison Kayleen Kleeman’s family has a protective order against the parent who made the comment about using a knife.
The Achille ISD (independent school district) superintendent Rick Beene said the “Achille ISD Parent Group” is not endorsed by their school district. “Our kids, our parents, most of our community is very, very good people,” he told the Blade, “very open to all ethnicities, all populations and really, we’ve got a group of kids that love each other. We know of no bullying, as far as this one situation is concerned.”
Beene does not anticipate further school closures.
Other parents, however, are concerned. “I saw the post from Hate Trackers and my heart sank as I read words that immediately shocked and then horrified me. Having never heard of or been to Achille, I Google-mapped it and found that geographically it is closer to Texas,” Sara Cunningham, founder of the Oklahoma City-based group “Free Mom Hugs,” told the Blade.
“I reached out to Kimberly Shappley with Equality Texas. She assured me she would alert the proper authorities there,” she continued. “Free Mom Hugs issued an open letter to the school and we are hopeful to hear from them soon as this news is horrifying. If any good can come from this, let it be that today in Oklahoma, the power of fear and ignorance has been exposed and the good and educated people of Oklahoma are not having any part of it!”
Cunningham told the Blade that the letter offers support and resources, such as LGBTQ sensitivity training.
“We have a beautiful, vibrant transgender community here in Oklahoma City,” Cunningham said. “What would it look like if we brought in a transgender individual and sat at a table with the principal there and just simply shared our stories?”
(Reporting by Los Angeles Blade, Hatewatch, KXII CBS12 Ardmore OK)